As you know, a tutor as a noun means:

"someone who gives private lessons to one pupil or a very small group of pupils."

1) Here I need to know whether omitting the adjective "private" or adding it to a noun, would change the meaning? In other words are the phrases: private tutor and tutor mean the same for a person who teaches privately both in AmE and BrE?

2) A tutor only teaches a "pupil" or a university student can get a private tutor too?

Tutor as a verb means:

"to teach by working with one student or a small group, esp. one which needs special help."

3) the third question is that whether if I work as a private tutor (as my business for make a living) just saying:

I tutor in advanced math.

Would normally indicate that I teach them as a private tutor or I have to say something like:

I tutor privately in advanced math.

  • 2
    This article might help you understand the nuances of the term “private tutor”.
    – J.R.
    May 12, 2019 at 10:48

2 Answers 2


In US English, "tutor" as a noun generally also means one who teaches on an individual or small-group basis, outside a formal school setting, often to supplement or prepare for instruction in a formal school setting. As a verb it means the process of such individual or small-group teaching. We have few or no institutions which use "tutor" for a member of the teaching staff.

In a US context "private tutor" is somewhat redundant, but might be used to emphasize that there is a separate agreement with the tutor. In some cases an extra supplementary teacher, a tutor, may be arranged by a school, or possibly by some sort of volunteer organization. Such tutors are often unpaid volunteers, and would not be called "private".

  • Excellent. Thank you very much David. Just in order to more clarification, can we use the noun and it's verb (tutor) for both "a school pupil" and "a university student"?
    – A-friend
    Jun 12, 2019 at 6:12

UK school terminology can be very confusing, and often specific to particular schools and areas.

In an ordinary state-funded secondary school, the usual word is "teacher" (and "headteacher", increasingly rarely "headmaster" / "headmistress"), and so a tutor means someone paid to help a child privately. You do also hear private tutor, but the following are the same:

  • George needs some help with his mathematics, so he has a tutor once a week.
  • ..., so he has a private tutor once a week.

I believe primary school age terminology would be the same as that.

Terminology in any given school might vary. My secondary school also had a teachers called "tutors", but these were the teachers responsible for a class of children (checked the register for example.)

In UK non-state schools, also called independent schools and public schools ("public" meant not in a private house, didn't mean that it was paid for by the state), terminology is even more specific to the individual school. For example at Eton, one of the best-known public schools, has a scheme of "tutors" who look after small groups of children, but also hold tutorials with them. It refers to teachers, but historically they were always masters, which is what you'll see in older texts: physics master, English master. In such a place, I'd expect to hear private tutor.

Some UK universities, most famously Oxford, are organised on the tutorial system, in which subject tutors hold tutorials with a few (typically two or three, sometimes only one) students; typically there is a personal tutor responsible for the student throughout their entire time at university. In an environment like this, you would have to say

  • I needed help with second-order differential equations, so I found a private tutor to help me for a term
  • My calculus tutor is no good, so I had to find a private tutor to help me


  • I tutor in maths (would assume private unless in university context, "maths"=UK, "math"=US.)

To say "I tutor privately" is correct but awkward. I've heard "I'm a private tutor", and "George has a private tutor for physics and violin" (might be one person or two), and also "We have George tutored privately for physicals and violin".


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